Considering how long it’s been since the last original episode of the series hit air, it was wise to slip this relatively self-contained episode into the order. Giving the story a little more time to breathe and the supporting cast a chance to shine had to be the operative thought, considering that the three main cast members are nowhere to be found.
At the end of the previous episode, Matt was searching for the “4AM miracle”, something that would break his writer’s block in just enough time to allow the show to work. Harriet’s break with Luke was the apparent catalyst, and one might have assumed that the show went off without a hitch. It seems like the miracle was rather short lived, given how the show actually progressed.
Because of the stakes for Matt, seen in the previous episode, it’s a bit off-putting that he’s not reacting to the meltdown. That said, I’m not sure that there was time in the episode for Matt, Danny, or Jordan to add a substantial contribution. I suspect that the next episode will deal with their reaction to the show in some fashion. At least it should, because with Matt on a downward spiral with drug addiction, this apparent failure feeds into his suspicion that any trouble with the show is the fault of his writing.
Jordan’s absence is covered nicely by Jack’s presence. Jordan is under heavy fire for her choices, and Jack can only protect her so far. Danny’s mistake with the propmaster union, by virtue of his relationship with Jordan, could have disastrous consequences should the program take a ratings hit from the subsequent problems. I would hope that all of this would play into the final arc.
It’s great to see Cal in the spotlight, because his frenetic production style is one of the highlights of the series. Busfield has a wonderful sense of comic timing, and despite the fact that it could be well over the top, he keeps it reined in just enough to make it viable and believable. It’s also great to see him work with Alison Janney again; they have a comfortable chemistry that works regardless of what characters they play.
It’s also interesting to get a glimpse of how the rest of the cast is dealing with the Matt/Harriet issue. There is that real world reaction to the person who’s been in a long-term on/off relationship, where everyone else around that person just gets sick of the routine. Some members of the audience are in the same frame of mind, so it was good to see the characters themselves struggle with it.
There was also a subplot involving Simon, which focused on a less-than-admirable side of his personality. With so many characters searching for a meaningful relationship, it’s interesting to see someone with more of a reputation for playing the field. That said, it’s unfortunate that the “player” is the most prominent African-American character, since it seems a bit stereotypical. It’s still an amusing if predictable subplot, but it’s hard to ignore the implications.